By Hassan Zaggi
Since over 200 years ago, the global community realized that vaccination is the only sure way of protecting the people from diseases that are vaccine-preventable.
That is why whenever any new disease showed up, efforts are being intensified to get a vaccine that can prevent it.
Polio, for example, being one of the deadly and crippling diseases, has, over the years, fought and eradicated in almost all countries of the world through vaccination.
The COVID-19 outbreak has also exposed the need for the vaccination of both the young and the old for the preservation of the human race.
It is important to quickly mention here that many diseases including diphtheria, measles, pneumonia and hepatitis B, can be prevented through vaccination.
Even though Nigeria has been making efforts to fight vaccine-preventable diseases through intensive vaccination over the years, the efforts got heightened during the COVID-19 era.
The initiatives put forward by the federal government through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to ensure all Nigerians get vaccinated against the COVID-19 are commendable.
With the strategies so far put in place by the government, NO Nigerian has any excuse not to be vaccinated against the deadly disease.
Yes, some may argue that the COVID-19 is gradually fizzling out. The danger with such assertion is that no one knows the variant that may surface any moment from now, hence, the need to get oneself protected so that one is not taken unprepared.
At the early stage of the COVID-19 vaccination, many Nigerians complaint that the vaccines were not enough, but now that the vaccines are everywhere, NO Nigerian has any tangible reason for not taking the vaccine even if not for his/her personal safety, but for the safety of others.
Few months ago, to ensure that Nigerians get vaccinated at ease, the NPHCDA introduced the COVID-19 vaccination at primary health care centres across the country.
Under the mass vaccination campaign, the vaccines were made available at places of worship across the country. Also, private healthcare facilities were not left out as they were mobilising to provide the COVID-19 vaccination. One can just enter any designated private health facility with a token and get vaccinated without delay.
To further widen the scope and open more frontiers for ease of getting the COVID-19 vaccination, recently, the NPHCDA entered into partnership with the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria.
Community pharmacies are one of the most easily accessible and frequently consulted points of care for health care service delivery by the public sector, especially, in underserved population due to their interconnectedness with the communities.
Every community, hamlet or village has a pharmacy. With the current arrangement, residents of any community can just enter the pharmacy nearest to them and get vaccinated within few minutes.
“With over 6000 community pharmacies spread across the country, coupled with the ease of access and long operating hours, I believe this will contribute to rapidly increasing vaccination coverage.
“I am excited about this collaboration and I believe it will add zest to the country’s effort to attain the national target of 70% vaccination coverage that is necessary to achieve herd immunity,” says the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuiab, during the official flag-off of the COVID-19 vaccination at the community pharmacies.
While we call on all Nigerians to avail themselves of the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19, one must also insist that with all these steps and measures taken by the NPHCDA to ensure access, NO Nigerian has any excuse not get him/herself vaccinated anywhere in Nigeria.
It is worth mentioning here that apart from the protection from COVID-19, the vaccine has other health benefits that comes with it.
At a recent interaction with a 53-year-old community leader in Maiduguri, Borno state, Isah Alhaji Lawal, he said: “Taking COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best decisions I have taken in my life as it has made me stronger and healthier.”
He reiterated that the COVID-19 vaccine is not only safe and efficacious, but that it also helps to fight other illnesses in the body.
“The illnesses I normally feel in the past are no more. I am a person that fall sick often, but since I took the COVID-19 vaccine, its like the vaccine has taken all of them away. I strongly recommend it to everyone,” Isah Lawal said.
He, therefore, insisted that from his experience of the vaccine, it has no negative or any side effect
With the many benefits attached to the COVID-19 vaccine, it is saddening to see how many Nigerians are foot-dragging to take it.
Findings across states on the level of uptake of the vaccine, especially, in the northern part of the country, is a source of concern.
Despite the fact that the NPHCDA has had several interactions with traditional and religious leaders across the country to woo them to support in mobilizing their followers to uptake the COVID-19, the effort is yet to yield the desired results across states of the country, with the exception of very few.
Community, opinion and traditional leaders need to up their game by speaking to their followers on the need to uptake the vaccine.
Political leaders too, need to be in the game by emphasizing the many benefits of the vaccine to their people. Their silence at this time is not golden.
Leaders at all levels must speak out loudly by calling on their people to go to the various centres and take the vaccine.
It is worrisome to note that most states across the country are still hovering around 6-9 per cent vaccination rate of their eligible population.
We must join hands together to ensure everyone is vaccinated against COVID-19 in all nooks and crannies of the country. Outside this, all of us are still vulnerable.